In the wake of a heart-wrenching incident involving an officer who took his own life after firing his service weapon in the fatal shooting of a murder suspect on August 7, our community is reminded of the vital importance of prioritizing the mental health and well-being of our law enforcement officers. An18-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Officer Matthew Bacon served as a member of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force, a collaborative effort involving both Dallas and Mesquite police officers. The task force was in the process of executing an arrest warrant for a murder suspect at a Dallas apartment complex.
Law enforcement officers face unimaginable challenges and responsibilities daily, often putting their own lives at risk to protect our communities. Recent events have underscored the acute emotional toll that these brave individuals carry with them, even as they fulfill their duty to serve and protect. The loss of an officer to suicide not only devastates their families and colleagues, but also serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support within police departments.
In times like these, we must come together as a community to address this critical issue and ensure that our officers have access to the resources they need to cope with the immense stress and trauma they encounter on the job. Mental health support should not be an afterthought, but an integral part of the comprehensive training and ongoing care provided to our police force.
As we mourn the loss of the Dallas Police Department’s own, we must also take action. NAMI North Texas is committed to actively advocating for increased awareness, funding, and implementation of mental health programs specifically tailored to the needs of law enforcement officers.
NAMI North Texas and its Overwatch Peer Support (OPS) program have offered support to the Dallas Police Department to assist those officers in need, but haven’t received a response yet. The NAMI North Texas OPS program is the first of its kind: in-person, no-cost, confidential, community-based, inter-agency peer support network for first responders. This innovative program provides a private option to take the first step towards mental health care, making it easier for first responders to seek help, prioritize their own well-being, and connect with vetted, culturally appropriate clinical care when necessary. Intended to be supplementary to intra-agency support teams, OPS serves as an additional resource to optimize first responder wellness and professional performance.
“It is our collective responsibility to create an environment in which our police officers feel safe to seek help and openly address their emotional well-being without fear of stigma,” states Michelle Horridge, who serves the NAMI North Texas Frontline Wellness Coordinator and a Detective for the Flower Mound Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. “Just as they work tirelessly to protect our community, we must work tirelessly to protect their mental health.”
The tragedy we face today serves as a painful reminder that we cannot wait any longer to address this pressing issue. Let us honor the memory of our fallen officer by fostering a culture of compassion, understanding, and support for our law enforcement officers. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that no officer feels alone in their struggle.
If you are a member of the law enforcement community (sworn or civilian) and would like to be connected with an OPS Peer Supporter, please visit naminorthtexas.org/frontline-wellness-1 or email Michelle Horridge at MichelleH@NAMINorthTexas.org.
ABOUT NAMI NORTH TEXAS
Founded in 1982, NAMI North Texas, a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit organization, advocates for equitable access to mental health services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community of hope for all of those in need. Serving Dallas, Collin, Denton, and Rockwall counties, NAMI North Texas provides essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs. For more information, visit naminorthtexas.org.